Passing a traveler's test By Alan...


September 23, 2001|By Special to the Sun


Passing a traveler's test

By Alan and Linda Zuckerman


Before we traveled to Mexico City, we were tourists who relied on all-inclusive package tours and air-conditioned buses. All that changed the third day of our Mexican stay when we read about an alternative way to reach the ruins of Teotihuacan, 45 minutes outside the city.

According to our guidebook, there was a public bus station near the National Cathedral from which we could make the trip at a ridiculously low price. We were already displeased with our accommodations and ready to rebel, and the guidebook said we were saps not to take this alternative route.

The next morning we set out on our adventure. The moment we left the main square, we found ourselves in ramshackle neighborhoods that made us uneasy. Just as we were ready to turn back, we stumbled upon the station. We found the right bus, which we boarded nervously amid mothers with babies and taciturn old men.

Soon we were going past tiny villages, men leading burros carrying stacks of firewood and barefoot children playing in the dusty streets. We don't know when the transformation took place, but we were having the time of our lives -- our first authentic experience.

Finally, the driver indicated that we had arrived. We got off the bus, which disappeared behind a wall of dust. We were on a desolate stretch of road, with no ruins visible. We began to panic, but all we could do was begin walking. Soon we came upon an elderly woman sitting in the shade of a tree.

"Teotihuacan?" we asked.

"Teotihuacan," she answered, pointing.

We reached the ruins, and spent a marvelous day, experiencing for the first time the freedom of choosing our own pace. We looked with pity upon those tour groups as they hurried past, missing some of the best sights. We even stayed for the evening sound and light show.

Savvy travelers now, when it was time to head back, we asked the ticket booth attendant where to catch the bus to Mexico City. He told us the last bus had already left. We were doomed. Desperation is inspirational, though, and we found a tour bus willing to give us a ride. Back in the city, the bus let us off at 11 p.m., miles from our hotel. We walked back to our hotel through the silent streets.

We awoke the next morning too late for the hotel breakfast, and ventured out to find food. Surprisingly, everything felt different. Whereas the day before we would have been too timid to locate a simple cup of coffee without a guide, now it all seemed so easy. As we sipped chocolate and watched the real world go by, we realized our travels would never be the same again.

The Zuckermans live in White Hall.


Seeing double?

By Tom Milleson, Timonium

Driving on a safari in South Africa's Kruger National Park, we encountered two huge male lions marching shoulder to shoulder toward us on the road. After they passed, they went to nap in the shade.

How do you pass the time in the car when you're on a road trip?


"When my brother Max and I went to Florida, we passed the time by listening to books on tape. My favorites were Tuck Everlasting and The Music of Dolphins."

-- Jackson Frazier, Baltimore (age 10)

"We seek out the 'oldies' stations, which lead to many spirited rounds of "name that tune!"

-- Caryn Collier, Baltimore

"I always choose an entertaining book to read aloud to my husband. Once while reading Bill Bryson's A Walk In the Woods, our giggling became so uncontrollable I feared that we would run off the highway."

-- Joyce Muller, Westminster

"We play this game for hours: The first person mentions a U.S. city (and its state); the next person must name another city that begins with the last letter of the previous person's city. Example: Baltimore, Md., next player: Elizabeth, N.J."

-- Needra Gorman, Pasadena

"We play a poker game with license plates the same way as with cards. At the end of the day, we see who has found the winning plate."

-- Barbara and Joseph Ambrose, Baltimore

"I play Christmas music on the car stereo. The kids love it; it's so silly to sing 'Jingle Bells' in August."

-- Janet Mercer, Lutherville

Our Next Question

What's the most impressive museum you have ever visited?

Please answer in 50 words or less. Send via fax to 410-783-2519, or write to Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or send by e-mail to Photos are welcome.

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